Smile Politely

Mother refuses to let authorities demonize son killed by Rantoul police 

Jordan Richardson, a young Black man, pictured hugging his white mother on the right. On the left, he is pictured at high school graduation, wearing purple robes and a purple cap with a gold tassel.
Jordan Richardson with his mother (r) + at graduation (l); photos by Amy Richardson

“I can’t sleep. The time that I have [fallen] asleep, I just woke up with a nightmare,” said Amy Richardson, whose son Jordan was shot and killed by police in Rantoul last week. “I keep rounding that corner and hearing those two shots and then I just wake up.” 

It was just after noon on Wednesday, June 7th when Amy dropped off her son at a friend’s car and left. She noticed police coming up the street and turned her car around. She watched as police approached the two Black youth in the car and arrested 20-year-old Jheremia McKown. She heard McKown cry out, “I’m not fighting, I’m not resisting.” 

Amy then saw her son Jordan take off running. She drove around the corner to try to intercept him. Rantoul police Sergeant Jerry King, a ten-year veteran of the force, chased after him. 

“All I heard was pop pop,” she recalled, “and I turn the corner, and my son was laid out in a driveway.” Police would not let her near her son as he lay bleeding. He was transported to Carle Hospital in an ambulance. Amy frantically demanded to see her son at the hospital, but police would not let her. Police were “so cold” about it, telling her, “No, his body’s evidence.” 

Jordan Richardson, who was 18 years old and just recently graduated from Rantoul Township High School, was found to have a single gunshot wound in his chest at 1:42 p.m. and pronounced dead shortly after. 

State’s Attorney Julia Rietz is painting this picture with a broad brush. Focus has been on the case of McKown — alleged to be involved in a high-speed car chase in April, found last week with six pounds of marijuana in his car, possessing two loaded handguns, and fighting with police — who is held on a half-million dollar bond. Because of McKown, Rietz said at arraignment, Rantoul was in an “uproar.” 

Jordan’s death at the hands of police has already been deemed justified in the media for his association with McKown. “They’re just trying to make him seem like he’s just some low down thug,” Amy said. “No, I refuse, I absolutely refuse to let them do this.”

“My son was an amazing kid,” Amy said. “He was so smart. Anybody around here that you ask, they don’t have a bad thing to say about my son.”

Kevin Williams, who lives in Rantoul, confirmed his mother’s account. “Everybody knew Jordan. My son and all his friends were cool with him. I’d get on his case for posting weed in his Facebook story. He never disrespected me for getting in his business.” 

The shooting at a balloon launch for Jordan on Friday, June 9th has also cast a shadow over events. An individual with a rifle shot into the crowd, miraculously missing everyone, and fled on foot. “I’ve told all of my son’s friends,” Amy said, “I don’t want you guys to do anything. I don’t want anybody to feel the way that I feel. This is awful. I told them you don’t have to prove your loyalty to my son. I know where you guys’ loyalty lies.”

Some background gives more insight into Jordan Richardson, who was more afraid of police than the warring factions of young people with guns in Rantoul.

African American youth have reason to be alarmed, with the police killing of Azaan Lee only four months ago. A full investigation has not even been completed, before the Illinois State Police were called back for another police shooting. My reporting for Smile Politely (here and here) found that Lee was not linked to a car reported stolen, he was trying to diffuse the situation, and a cop admitted to pulling the trigger on a gun found on him. 

“These Rantoul police have been on my son’s heels for months now,” Jordan’s mom told me. In October 2022, Jordan was shot at while visiting a friend at Golfview Village apartments in Rantoul. When police arrived, she said, they tackled Jordan and left him with a “big knot” on his forehead. Police seized his phone, Amy said, although, “He was the victim.” After the incident, Jordan was “fired up” and “angry.” 

Amy sent Jordan to Colorado after he was shot at because she was “scared for [her] son’s safety.” He finished high school early and returned for the graduation ceremony a couple weeks ago. 

“I feel so twisted,” Amy said, “I know he wanted to come here and graduate, you know, and walk the stage. He earned that right. But then I just keep questioning myself that I made the right decision by letting him come back here.” 

Sergeant Jerry King, the cop who killed Jordan, is currently being investigated by Rantoul police for insensitive photos on his Facebook page, including one of him in blackface for Halloween.  

“Was my son a threat to you because of the color of his skin?” Amy wondered. “Because he had dreads? What made my son so threatening to you that it had to go like this? I just don’t understand. I really don’t understand.” 

The media has reported that State’s Attorney Rietz claims Jordan pointed a gun at the cop. Rantoul police were the first in Champaign County to obtain body cameras, which may show more about what happened. 

“It’s crazy, he told me Tuesday,” Amy wrote to me in our correspondence. “Ma, all these people out here with guns, I don’t fear none of them, the only ones that put fear in my soul is the police.”

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